I love filling my planters every spring, but having to get rid of all those plants at the end of the season always makes me so sad. So here are some great perennial planter ideas that you can reuse year after year!
I have quite a few planters on our two porches and I love the ritual of filling them every year and watching them grow fuller and fuller throughout the season. The thing that I really don’t love is having to get rid of all of the those annuals at the end of every summer. It seems like such a waste of time, money, and good plants! I decided this year to see if I could come up with some planter ideas that use only perennials instead. This way, I can reuse the same plants year after year, or at least I can re-plant them out somewhere else in the garden to continue to grow if I decide I want to try something different in my planters. Here are a few perennial planter ideas if you like the sound of my planter plans for this year.
Perennials in Planters vs. Annuals
If you’re new to filling planters, or gardening in general, you may not yet know the difference between perennial plants and annuals. Basically, perennials are the plants in your garden that die back and go dormant in the winter, but come back the next spring. Annuals are the ones that only last one season and that die completely when the cold weather hits and need to be replaced with new plants from the garden centre the following spring. The colourful little flowers that you see at the garden centre that are sold for use in planters are most often annuals, so using perennials takes a bit of creativity and inventiveness. 🙂
How to Decide Which Perennials Will Work Well in Planters
One of the reasons why annuals are so popular for growing in planters is that a lot of the time, they just thrive much more easily than perennials do. Some perennials just really need to be planted in the ground and some take a few years to really get going. These are obviously not going to be your best choices for planter perennials because you really would like them to stay alive and also look good the first year that you have them in your planters.
The easiest method that I’ve found to use is good ‘ol google. If I come across a perennial in the garden centre that I’ve never used before, but that I think might look good in planters, I just look up “______ in planters”. If a number of different results come up, then I can see that people have used them in planters before and they do, indeed, do well in that situation.
You can follow the same rules as you would when creating annual planters, such as the “thriller, filler, and spiller” method, but I find perennials also tend to lend themselves nicely to simpler, more quiet arrangements. I often like the look of just a single type of plant in one planter (usually three little plants from the garden centre look nice), or I just use a “filler” and a “spiller” together, and forego the use of a thriller altogether. 🙂
Perennials I’ve Used in my Planters This Year
English Ivy and English Lavender
Definitely a classic combination! I used the “Munstead” variety of lavender and I find it to be much tougher than other varieties and it really stands up well to the strong winds we get here. Hoping to think of a lovely place to plant the ivy at the end of the season so I can keep enjoying it! The cement planters came from Target years ago when they were in Canada. I love how they’ve aged. 🙂
This one is a bit of an experiment, but I think it’s starting to fill in a little more now! I thought it would be a fun play on blue and white to use blue fescue grass in a white planter. The growth is pretty slow, but I’ve been starting to see wispy new blades of blue-green grass starting to appear. I think this one may take a season or two to fill it, but will eventually be kind of a neat, beachy look for summer.
The all-weather planter can be found here on Wayfair. I use these planter bags inside so I can switch my plants out easily between seasons. They’re also supposed to be really good for plants’ roots and drainage, but this is my first year using them, so the jury’s still out.
There are quite a few perennial herbs that do exceptionally well in planters. My favourites are probably thyme (shown here) and lavender, but mint is lovely too as long as you’re able to keep it well-watered, and I’m also really enjoy the wispy, whimsical vibes of French tarragon in one of my basket planters. Of course rosemary is always lovely and classic. If you like this basket planter look, there are quite a few made specifically for planting in with a plastic liner that are available from higher quality home shops.
Another option, which I’m showing here, is to just find a basket you like from a thrift store and turn it into a planter yourself. They won’t last forever of course, but this one here has been outside full time for 3-4 years and it’s still holding up quite nicely. Here’s a post outlining the process I follow to use baskets as planters.
Lavender topiaries are just so charming. They’ve become popular over the last few years so they’re pretty easy to find in garden centres in the spring time. I absolutely love the look of a pair of them in my white square planters on either side of the porch. I have to admit though, that although these are technically perennials, I haven’t been able to get them to last beyond one summer, so they’re perennialness becomes kind of pointless. I’m sure that if you grow them and trim them slowly over time in your own greenhouse, they would be much more well-adapted and would last a long time, but when you bring them home (often already in bloom) from the garden centre in the spring and then put them in a planter, they seem to never fully recover from the shock. I’ve had much more luck with regular lavender plants in planters when it comes to having them survive year after year. The store bought topiaries sure are cute though and a really quick, easy planter solution!
Bridal Wreath Spirea and Creeping Jenny
Creeping Jenny is almost always sold in the annuals section of the garden centre because it’s so great in summer planters and fills in quickly, but it’s actually a perennial and it’s one of my favourite in garden beds and in planters as well. This little planter combination came about by accident and I just placed it in this old pot I had, just as kind of an experiment and I was so pleased with how well it did. The bridal wreath spirea is just so happy in here, although I doubt that this is a combination that I’ll be able to maintain past the end of summer because the spirea will soon outgrow the pot and will need to find a permanent home in the garden. It was so tiny when I got it (well, when Chris got it for me) and I didn’t think it would grow so quickly! I love the deep green paired with the chartreuse of the Creeping Jenny and I think that the spirea makes a great alternative to boxwood in a planter because it’s much easier to keep happy and alive than a boxwood, but still has that same deep green foliage.
So that’s a look at some of my perennial planter ideas for this year! Do you use perennials in your planters? What are some of the favourites?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.